Companies weigh options as convoy prepares to arrive in Ottawa

As some Ottawa businesses ponder whether they should close their doors this weekend as a convoy of truckers heads to Parliament Hill, others are rolling out the welcome mat.

The convoy includes truckers from across the country and others broadly opposed to public health mandates.

One of the dynamics is that the large number of vehicles converging on the city of one million from three directions can make getting around this weekend very difficult, especially to, from and through the city center.

Ottawa police are urging people to avoid unnecessary travel downtown this weekend and the city has already started closing some traffic lanes, saying it expects the disruption to last until Sunday. Provincial police have asked people to avoid using major highways.

Expected traffic issues have caused Ottawa Public Health to close a COVID-19 vaccination clinic near downtown.

Another variable is that although the main convoy was relatively peaceful in its journey across the country, Ottawa police say there are concerns about further protests and counter-protests.

All of this has led some businesses to weigh their options as to whether to shut down.

“We’ve been here since 1977, so we’ve seen all kinds of protests,” said Matthew Dixon, owner of Dixon Jewelers near Parliament Hill.

“We’re used to keeping our ears to the ground and trying to figure out what’s going to happen.”

A transport truck part of a convoy arriving in Ottawa for a weekend protest against various health mandates drives near the National War Memorial Thursday, January 27, 2022. (Ian Black/CBC)

Kevin McHale, general manager of the Sparks Street BIA (business improvement area) said he had heard some concerns from businesses along the pedestrian street just south of Parliament Hill.

The warning to stay away from downtown couldn’t have come at a worse time, McHale said, as it could have been an otherwise busy weekend for retailers.

“Downtown is kind of already in this COVID crisis,” he said. “And having [a protest] like this one unfolding on the Hill will only make residents more unwilling to go down to the core. »

Businesses prepare for the convoy

Still, some companies plan to accommodate truckers whether or not they support calls to scrap COVID-19 mandates.

“Before the pandemic, we employed over 100 people, had a good, solid, money-making business that just got completely decimated and kind of left for dead,” said Gregg McCabe, co-owner of Crazy Horse Stonegrill Steakhouse & Saloon.

The restaurant is offering convoy members free takeout until Saturday to show their support.

He expressed his frustration with “the way we were treated and everything that happened.

“We talked for a long time about trying to do something and wanting to do something, but there were so many times where you felt helpless and unable to do anything.”

Tom Orr also plans to keep the Antrim Truck Stop open in Arnprior, Ontario, west of Ottawa for convenience, saying it’s “the most logical place for the first 150 trucks to park” before continuing on to Ottawa.

He has cleared more space in the four-hectare parking lot in anticipation of a busy weekend.

“I would be a fool to close my business to trucks or the general public. I would never judge anyone who comes into our business, regardless of their beliefs or opinions,” the former truck driver told CBC Radio. Ottawa morning.

Michelle Groulx, executive director of the Ottawa Business Improvement Coalition, told businesses to stay open if they feel comfortable. But she heard concerns.

“At this time it doesn’t appear to be a security concern, but of course things can change very quickly and so we asked companies to remain vigilant,” Groulx said.

Rideau-Vanier County Mathieu Fleury says he also answered questions from concerned business owners.

“They don’t want to create any pressure points, but at the same time they want to make sure their customers are safe, their staff are safe and they’re not putting anyone at risk. I guess that’s the unknown of this manifestation.”

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